Erdogan orders fresh weekend lockdown for Turkey

Istanbul (AFP) –


Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Monday ordered a fresh lockdown next weekend, warning the move would be imposed as long as necessary to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Late last Friday the government announced a weekend lockdown for 31 cities, but given just two hours' notice, hundreds of thousands of people rushed out to make last-minute purchases.

Erdogan has already asked the Turkish people to stay at home and practise social isolation.

The weekend lockdowns are a stricter measure, enforced by the police, and coincide with the improving weather, which has raised government concerns that citizens might ignore the calls to stay at home.

"As part of the fight against the pandemic, we have decided that we would continue the weekend lockdowns as long as necessary in the period ahead," Erdogan said in Istanbul.

"I announce to all my citizens that there will be a lockdown from Friday 17 April at 2400 until Sunday 19 April at 2400," he said in a televised speech.

Last week's late announcement and the subsequent chaos led to Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu taking responsibility and announcing his resignation Sunday, but Erdogan told him to stay in his post.

"We are going to take the necessary measures to avoid the unnecessary disorder that took place before," the president said. The purpose of the all-day weekend curfews was to protect citizens from the virus by ensuring they stayed at home, he added.

Turkey has recorded more than 61,000 COVID-19 infections and nearly 1,300 have died, according to health ministry figures published Monday.

Erdogan sought to reassure the Turkish public over the handling of the crisis.

"Our health institutions have the capacity for diagnosis, treatment and the intensive care units to overcome the pandemic," he said.